3 More Portland GRASSROOTS Organizations

Portland is full of fantastic organizations and nonprofits for youth and family services. Here are just a few special organizations in Portland and some simple ways to volunteer or get involved. Sometimes, just learning about an organization so you can … Continue reading

Stopping the Cradle to Prison Pipeline (by Guest Blogger Jason Fillo)

The numerous socio-economic problems existing in our society often feel overwhelming and insurmountable. Children born into poverty are more likely to become incarcerated early in their life and end up in a cycle of imprisonment and violence that ends up … Continue reading

ACTION ALERT Today for Our Library: Supportive Voices Needed (Instructions Here)

Dearest readers:

I just spoke to someone from the Libraries Yes! campaign, and they’re in search of young voices supporting the library.  Do you have a voice that you’d like to use to support the library?  Were you already in search of easy ways to show your support? Today is your day!

  • Make an online comment on the recent Oregonian article titled “Multnomah County Voters to Decide Fate of Proposed Permanent Library District”
  • Make an online comment on the Portland Mercury’s recent endorsement of the Library District.
  • Make an online comment on the Willamette Week’s recent endorsement of the Library District.
  • Make a quick video saying why you support the library and how you use the library as a resource.  This does not need to be professional quality — just smart, thoughtful, and relatable.  Email the video to info@librariesyes.com.

I’m on my way home to make a video with my kids.  And I just posted some of my comments to the above articles/links.  This is such an easy and wonderful way to volunteer from the comfort of your own computer.  Try it and let me know how it goes!

-Zapoura

Getting Fired Up About Social Issues…and Actually Doing Something About Them (by Guest Student Blogger Emily Jasperson)

Note: In the next few days, I’ll be posting the action plans of three students who have given me permission to share their work here.  These three students have all committed to expanding their roles as involved community members and will be experimenting bravely with the ways they become more deeply involved and invested.  Read on (and for the next few days) for some excellent and practical ideas about how to keep the work going.

Our first action plan comes from Emily Jasperson, a future teacher who is finding ways to integrate community work into her daily life.

How easy it is to get all fired about social issues, like all the things we’ve discussed in class this summer, just to finish the final project and go about life as it was before. Why is this? This has happened to me a few times throughout my college career. First after taking ED 420 and learning about the ills of the education system, and second when I took a minorities class that detailed the struggles of various minority populations around the world now and in history. I became so frustrated and wanted so much for things to be different. It all comes down to a feeling of powerlessness because these issues are so huge. Although I personally cannot erase poverty and racial disparities, there are little things I can do to make a difference for people in my community. This is what I have learned this term while working with SUN at James John. I realized that there are so many programs out there like SUN, that really need extra help in the way of volunteers, and this is something I can do. My helping to stuff envelopes or to clean up a cluttered office space translates into more time that the staff of such organizations gets to spend actually helping people.

                  I have decided that I would like to continue my community involvement beyond the scope of this class. I am going to talk to Koali about continuing my service with SUN at James John into the school year to continue the relationships I have started with the children and staff. I feel that SUN does such great things and I really would like to be a part of the positive change they are creating for many families in Portland. I really like the resources they have for families outside of the programs at elementary schools, like health services and school-readiness programs, among many others. All of these things are set up to benefit children in the long run, which is something I am passionate about. Having worked with kids for quite some time now, I really appreciate the importance of a good education for them and would like to work to see it happen. I am grateful that through this Capstone experience I have been presented with so many ways to get involved and help make a change.

                  My plan for continuing community involvement is going to last for six months. This is about the amount of time I have left in school, which means I won’t be working very much, thus freeing up more of my time not spent in class. These six months will start in September, when school starts and SUN is back in session. Until then, I have the Oregon Zoo Urban Overnights trip with the James John SUN kids to look forward to and I am going to start looking for one-time volunteer opportunities through Hands On. This will give me a chance to get involved with other organizations not necessarily affiliated with schools or children, thus enriching my volunteer and community involvement experience. There are so many great things to help out with in Portland! In addition to this, I have chosen three steps from “Fitting Activism Into Your Daily Life”:

  1. Share Your Sources of Information with Others

I have already been doing this a bit since I started following PDXEAN on facebook and d2l. Through that, I have found Rethinking Schools and The Huffington Post education section which I have now also been following. I share articles with friends that I find to be particularly poignant or outrageous, or that deserve discussion. I have always felt that I didn’t know very much about current issues, especially those in education, and having access to these things has greatly widened my understanding of educational issues affecting our kids today. I will continue to follow these and share them with friends and family through facebook.

  1. Check Out or Join a Movement or Organization

This is something I have never done before, but have always wanted to. It has always seemed to me that I haven’t had time, or that I wouldn’t know where to look for organizations that I could possibly be a part of. Again, I am thankful for all this class has opened up to me! I joined Women for Change and Children First for Oregon, in hopes of staying current on education and general issues that are affecting children here in Oregon, and also to be able to find out ways I can physically help out in the effort. The sources of information I follow aren’t always about issues that are affect those in my own state, so this is a good way to keep informed about things I can really make a difference about and hopefully see results.

  1. Go Big and Go Small

I have never participated in something for a BIG cause, but I would like to. By paying attention to issues detailed through Women for Change and Children First for Oregon, I may be able to find some ways to help out or speak out on some big issues that affect the nation or the world, not just here in Portland. I did a bit of volunteering a few years back to get people my age to vote, and I don’t know how successful I personally was, but it felt good to be involved in something that was a lot bigger than myself and even my community. The small things I would like to do will most likely be found through volunteer opportunities on the Hands On website. I have looked at these for the past couple of weeks but haven’t done any of them yet. I like how they seem so simple but really can make a big difference for a neighborhood or organization. Some are as simple as pulling ivy or cleaning trails, and while this doesn’t seem like a big deal, it can mean that people enjoying nature can have a positive experience making them want to come back and ultimately help preserve our natural areas. Small things turn out to yield big benefits!

                  All of this sounds great on paper, but how am I going to actually commit to it? Since I will be accountable to the SUN staff at James John, it will be easy to stick with that commitment. Also, I would be spending so much time with the kids that I would feel I would be letting them down if I didn’t show up. Fortunately for me, right now my schedule is pretty open so I should be able to find time to do a lot in the community. Aside from SUN, I am going to look at the Hands On website each week to find an opportunity to help out in some way. I would also like to enlist the help of my friends as well for volunteer buddies! It’s a great way to hang out while also doing something positive for our neighbors. I would also like to start a volunteer journal to track my progress and record my experiences. I have heard that altruism is a great way to lead a fulfilling life and I think that writing about it will present the personal benefits of volunteering, which I don’t often think about. I don’t mind having my plan shared on PDXEAN, it may actually make me feel a bit more accountable to the words and thoughts I have written here. Also, periodic check-in emails would be great! It’s always nice to get a bit of reinforcement. I look forward to the next six months of community involvement, and will strive to continue volunteering far beyond that date. 

New Oregon School Ratings: Let’s Show Kids They Truly Are a “Priority”

In my Friday morning Enhancing Youth Literacy class at Portland State University today, we started our session by taking a look at Oregon’s newly released school ratings.  What should we all know about this new system of rating?  Oregon was recently granted a No Child Left Behind Act waiver and has now developed its own rating system that includes labels of “priority,” “focus,” and “model” schools.  These labels only impact schools receiving Title I anti-poverty funding.  Priority schools appear to be the ones in the bottom 5% of achievement; focus schools are those in the bottom 15% of achievement, and model schools are the schools with the best performance that will be used as resources for best practices.  Priority and model schools will receive additional state support.  It’s a little unclear what that additional state support will look like, but hopefully it will actually be the kind of support these schools need.

Back to my moment in the classroom…

We did a bunch of searches to see how various local schools are doing.  We looked at the schools of the students that we have been volunteering with at Upward Bound (Madison, Grant, Roosevelt), we looked at schools that my own students had attended (Reynolds, Clackamas, etc.), and we checked a few schools in neighborhoods that are more affluent to compare them with schools in neighborhoods that struggle economically.

The result?  Concern for those schools who have historically done poorly and that continue to do so.  Worry for the kids and parents in schools that have struggled so hard.  Anxiety for the teachers in those struggling schools.  Dispair at graduation rates as low as 20%.  And a little bit of hope from the fact that Oregon is now looking at the growth in schools rather than just the scores.  If we can focus on growth, encourage more growth, and show kids that they can actually learn and grow, then we’ll be on the right path.

Here are some of the local news stories that have resulted from a first-glance analysis of the data:

  • Portland Schools Get More ‘Focus” on Achievement from State” (Portland Tribune): In this article, education journalist Jennifer Anderson points out that out of the entire state, Portland has 6 priority schools, 6 focus schools, and no model schools.
  • New Oregon School Ratings Show Familiar Patterns bu Highlight Little-Known Schools” (The Oregonian):Here, Beth Hammond talks about the ways the new school ratings show the same kinds of patterns we have seen under the No Child Left Behind ratings system.  Schools in higher poverty areas are doing worse than schools in more affluent areas.   Schools that serve families who are learning English as a second language are also struggling more than the schools that don’t.  Elementary schools are doing better than middle schools; middle schools are doing better than high schools; high schools are struggling.  No surprises here.  This grim picture has been painted again and again.

Of course, it’s not the data that’s most important in this story — it’s the kids, teachers, and families involved in the school system; it’s the community members who must come together to actually help schools see improvement.  If this NCLB waiver really works, we may see growth.  Let’s show “priority” schools that they’re not failures and that they’re not “in needs of improvement” — let’s show them that they are our priority in this next school year.  Please volunteer, vote to support kids/families in November, become a member of an advocacy organization like Stand for Children (or other similar groups), join the PTA, and/or become a mentor.  All of these acts show kids that they are our priority and that they are our focus. Let’s show kids that the change in language isn’t just another empty promise.  

Can We Have Equitable Education Without Fair Housing?: How to Get Involved

My Capstone students are diving into articles about neighborhoods, gentrification, fair housing, and more this week as they get started working with our community partners in various areas of the city. Students are working in St. Johns at the James John SUN School Summer Program, in Gresham and SE Portland in the 9th Grade Counts and Puentes programs, at New Columbia with the University Park Day Camp, and in the heart of the city with the Upward Bound Program. While our learning is primarily about education, the intersection between place and education is a strong one and must be examined.

Because of our current class reading and discussion, I’m linking to  an earlier post about the four-part article series run in the Oregonian on the fair housing crisis in Portland because it’s the topic of some of our discussion this week.

One of my students asked the same question that I have been pondering every since reading this article series — what can we do about it? I put together a preliminary list of some ideas and wanted to share them here as well.  Here is how I responded to my student in our class discussion forum when she posted on her outrage at the unfair housing situation and her desire to do figure out how to do something about it:

I had a similar reaction to this series of articles — despair and then wondering what to do. Even after talking to colleagues and friends, I’m still not exactly sure what the best course of action is. Here are some of my preliminary thoughts:

  • Be aware of what’s going with Home Forward (formerly the Housing Authority of Portland): http://www.homeforward.org/. There are sometimes volunteer opportunities and public forums through this organization.
  • Volunteer or advocate through an organization like NW Housing Alternatives: http://www.nwhousing.org/. This organization supports low income residents in finding housing but also in resident services (parenting classes, homework clubs for kids, etc.). A former Capstone student of mine works with this organization now, so let me know if you’re interested in connecting.
  • There’s an upcoming talk on July 10 at the Kennedy School:http://www.mcmenamins.com/events/104204-Race-Talks-Opportunities-for-Dialogue. They’ve been hosting conversations related to issues of place, race, neighborhoods, and local history all year long.  This would be an opportunity to jump into a bigger conversation related to fair housing and equity. This should be a fascinating conversation, and you could get hooked up with the Fair Housing Council of Oregon, which is leading the discussion.
  • Join your neighborhood association so that you can be part of bigger conversations about place and equity.

Education is much more my area of expertise, so I’d love to hear other suggestions on how to get more involved in advocating for fair housing in our city.  Please post your ideas here!

Can We Have Equitable Education without Fair Housing? Some Ideas About How to Support Healthy, Equitable Neighborhoods and Schools

My Capstone students are diving into articles about neighborhoods, gentrification, fair housing, and more this week as they get started working with our community partners in various areas of the city. Students are working in St. Johns at the James John SUN School Summer Program, in Gresham and SE Portland in the 9th Grade Counts and Puentes programs, at New Columbia with the University Park Day Camp, and in the heart of the city with the Upward Bound Program. While our learning is primarily about education, the intersection between place and education is a strong one and must be examined.

Because of our current class reading and discussion, I’m reblogging an earlier post about the four-part article series run in the Oregonian on the fair housing crisis in Portland because it’s the topic of some of our discussion this week. One of my students asked the same question that I have been pondering every since reading this article series — what can we do about it?

I put together a preliminary list of some ideas and wanted to share them here as well.  Here is how I responded to my student in our class discussion forum when she posted on her outrage at the unfair housing situation and her desire to do figure out how to do something about it:

I had a similar reaction to this series of articles — despair and then wondering what to do. Even after talking to colleagues and friends, I’m still not exactly sure what the best course of action is. Here are some of my preliminary thoughts:

  • Be aware of what’s going with Home Forward (formerly the Housing Authority of Portland): http://www.homeforward.org/. There are sometimes volunteer opportunities and public forums through this organization.
  • Volunteer or advocate through an organization like NW Housing Alternatives: http://www.nwhousing.org/. This organization supports low income residents in finding housing but also in resident services (parenting classes, homework clubs for kids, etc.). A former Capstone student of mine works with this organization now, so let me know if you’re interested in connecting.
  • There’s an upcoming talk on July 10 at the Kennedy School: http://www.mcmenamins.com/events/104204-Race-Talks-Opportunities-for-Dialogue. They’ve been hosting conversations related to issues of place, race, neighborhoods, and local history all year long.  This would be an opportunity to jump into a bigger conversation related to fair housing and equity. This should be a fascinating conversation, and you could get hooked up with the Fair Housing Council of Oregon, which is leading the discussion.
  • Join your neighborhood association so that you can be part of bigger conversations about place and equity.

Education is much more my area of expertise, so I’d love to hear other suggestions on how to get more involved in advocating for fair housing in our city.  Please post your ideas here!

The Oregonian’s Brad Schmidt recently published a four-article series called “Locked Out: The Failure of Portland-Area Fair Housing.”   To get a taste of the article, read this quotable moment: “taxpayer money meant to help break down segregation and poverty is instead reinforcing it.”

On a personal level, I’m outraged because the money that I pay in taxes is actually undermining the work I do in the classroom and the community.  On a community level, I’m outraged because systemic racism and classism continue to play pivotal roles in decisions made about neighborhoods, housing, quality of living, access to resources, and access to strong schools.  

I often hear education advocates and activists say that the movement for equitable education is the civil rights movement of our time.  Maybe the call for fair housing practices and equitable neighborhoods (and access to resources) will become the civil rights movement…

View original post 68 more words

Volunteering Out Loud: Let’s Share Here (Add Your Voice)

Note: This post ends with a question for readers!

Summer time is often a little slower when it comes to education news.  While there is still much to discuss, there is often a lull as teachers do other summer work or take the summer off if they’re lucky .  I work each term out of the year, but summer always has a more relaxed vibe that I’m grateful for.  One of the things I’ll be thinking and writing about this summer is the work of teaching with community-based learning as the core of the classroom learning.  As part of this, I will be showcasing student work and talking about ways that I’m developing my own courses into stronger service-learning classes.

I keep thinking about a student I had at Portland Community College in my WR 122: Persuasive Writing class.  She volunteered at the Bonnie Hayes Small Animal Shelter and wrote the following in her final reflection:

I’m glad to be volunteering and I think that if I can do it while having two little ones and a limited available schedule then others should be stepping up their game. Volunteering should not be an activity that people do in secret; we should be proud and vocal about it and expect others to do more. “Think global, act local” something to that nature. The little things do matter.

I keep thinking about Amber’s idea that “volunteering should not be an activity that people do in secret; we should be proud and vocal about it.”  I was inspired by Amber’s idea and set up a virtual billboard in my online course site for summer WR 122.  On that billboard is a list of all of the students who will be volunteering throughout the term and the organizations they’ll be working with.  While the list of names is something that I keep confident, I can tell you that 15/20 of my students have opted in to volunteer work this term.  This means that their writing will be closely connected to the community. The list of issues that students (those who can fit volunteer work into their schedules and those who can not) is as follows:

  • local small businesses
  • unemployment
  • access to higher education
  • homelessness
  • support for kids in the foster care system
  • children’s hospitals
  • hunger
  • women and children’s issues
  • cancer support
  • addiction
  • support for members of the armed services
  • support for families of armed service members
  • environment & public land issues
  • animals
  • mentoring
  • healthcare
  • global outreach (resources for sustainability)
  • access to the arts

The kinds of conversations these students are having and the kind of work they’re doing in the community and, as a result, in their own writing is amazing and hopeful in face of so much that is difficult about the state of education today.

The point of this post?  To add my voice and my students’ voices to the bigger conversation about working in the community.  And to encourage you to do the same.

A question for you to answer, dear (mostly silent) readers:

Are you working in the community?  What does this work look like?  What are the issues most near and dear to your heart?

Current Hot Education Topics in Oregon: Keep Up & Get Involved

I was gone for several days at the Young Rhetoricians’ Conference and thoroughly enjoyed the ocean at Monterey, CA, and the company of so many smart, compassionate, dedicated educators.  Now back and refreshed, it’s time to catch up on my education reading AND to find ways to get involved.  Here’s what I read about this weekend…note the links to organizations that can support you in getting more involved in the issues below!  It’s great to be informed, but it’s even better to act on one’s convictions in the community.

More on Portland Public School Drop Out Rates: If you’re worried about our high school students and the high drop out rate, you must read Betsy Hammond’s article on drop out rates and alternative schools.  This is a multi-article series well worth the read.  After you read this article, think about signing up with Big Brothers/Big Sisters, the Mentoring Project, ASPIRE, or Upward Bound in order to support high school students the one-person-at-a-time way.

DREAM Act/Amnesty for Immigrant Youth: Yes, President Obama Administration has promised to stop deporting immigrant youth and to instead offer work visas.  But that doesn’t mean that the work supporting these youth and the DREAM Act is over.  See the Dream Activist Network’s “9 Things You Can Do.”  Also, think about “Liking” the NW Immigrant Youth Alliance on Facebook and getting involved with some of their activities.

Pesticides Around Oregon Schools: Oregon schools will now limit the amount of pesticides used on school grounds AND notify parents when pesticides will be used.  I hadn’t really thought about the fact that school groundskeepers might be using toxic poisons on school grounds.  Wow.  Glad this is going to be changing. If you’re worried about pesticides and keeping Oregon green, join up for some projects with SOLV this summer and beyond.

Upcoming Bond Measure: There will be a bond measure for Portland Public Schools on the upcoming ballot in November.  This bond would help to keep Portland schools safe and standing.  Keep up on what this bond will ultimately look like by reading the most recent article here. Think about attending upcoming School Board meetings to get in on the action.  And check back here for more information on how to get involved once the bond measure is written up.

Local School Budgets: Local school districts continue to struggle with less money than needed and angry parents.  For example, Beaverton parents continue to fight for music education for their kids, and the School Board continues to explain why there isn’t enough money for music.  With a husband who is a music teacher, I’m the first one to argue for the value of music education in schools; however, this is really just the tip of the iceberg.  Our schools need a lot of things, and without a stable way to fund them, these battles will never be won, especially in the most needy schools.